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From the September - October 1988 MediaWatch

Double Standard Evident in Coverage

Page One

Convention Contrasts

In mid-August, Republicans from across America arrived in New Orleans to nominate George Bush as their candidate for President of the United States. But reporters for the four television networks repeatedly portrayed the Republicans as extreme and on the fringe of the American political spectrum. How? By incessantly labeling convention goers as conservative ideologues and attacking Republicans all they could--on issues including opposition to abortion, ERA, the plant closings bill, and the Civil Rights Restoration Act.

Looking at the Democratic Convention coverage a month earlier, a media double standard becomes evident. Reporters in Atlanta fawned over the Democrats and their policies. Viewers at home saw presidential nominee Michael Dukakis portrayed as a competent manager and political moderate, not an ideological liberal. In fact, network anchors and reporters labeled Michael Dukakis a moderate almost as often as they tagged him liberal. The networks avoided substance as much as possible. Any controversies surrounding the Democrats and criticism of Dukakis' liberal record were all but ignored.

To conduct the study, analysts evaluated ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC News coverage of the two political conventions in a variety of areas.

Key Findings of this MediaWatch Study:

-- Labeling -- Republicans got tagged two and a half times more often than Democrats.

-- Questions asked -- Republicans had to respond to Democratic agenda issues more than twice as often as Democrats were challenged with Republican themes.

-- Controversies -- From the frenzy over Quayle to the Iran/Contra affair, the networks had no trouble finding time to highlight Republican controversies. But in Atlanta, reporters were silent on events dogging Democrats.


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